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Thinking About Money Makes Parenting Less Satisfying

Update Date: Feb 17, 2014 02:12 PM EST

Thinking about money may make you a worse parent. New research reveals that the idea of parenting is less meaningful when people think about finances.

Researchers said the latest findings help reveal the link between money and parental wellbeing. They also serve as a new model for understanding factors that contribute to wellbeing and parental happiness.

A previous study from the same group of researchers revealed that showing parents images of money while they were filling out questionnaires at a festival with their children reduced their levels of meaning in life.

In the latest study, researchers showed some participants money while testing the influence of parents' objectives when they were taking care of their children at a festival. One group of parents was asked to read a paragraph about the festival in terms of productivity and achievement. Another group was asked to read about the festival in the context of satisfying the needs of their children with no expectation for direct return. Both groups were then surveyed about parenting and sense of meaning.

"This design allowed us to see whether money compromises meaning because of the conflict between the goals associated with money and the goals and the behaviors that parenting normally demands," Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia said in a news release.

The findings revealed that simultaneously activating goals for both moneymaking and satisfying the needs of their children make parents feel like what they were doing was less meaningful.

Researchers noted the findings were more pronounced in women.  

"Money seems to compromise meaning for mothers but not for fathers when they are spending time with their children," Kushlev said. "This finding is consistent with other, unpublished research that suggests that money tends to activate achievement and self-promotion motivations more strongly in women than men."

Researchers also found that fathers are happier than men without children. However, there were no significant differences in levels of happiness between mothers and childless women.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that parents should try their best to keep work and family life as separate as possible.

"The less we mix our various goals and motivations, the more meaning in life we may be able to experience from our various daily activities," Kushlev concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

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